The 32nd Washington Electoral College convenes at the state Capitol at high noon on Dec. 19, taking part in a time-honored ritual of awarding the state’s electoral votes for president and vice president.
Amid speculation that several of the 12 delegates will choose to be “faithless” electors, the College will assemble in the ornate State Reception Room, hosted by Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Gov. Jay Inslee.
The state went for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump and dozens of other candidates, so the electors will be the slate elected by Democrats at convention. All signed pledges to vote for the party nominee, Clinton, but several have since aligned with the Hamilton Electors in a national effort to peel off enough Trump electoral votes to deny him the presidency. Mavericks have said they would vote for an alternative Republican, though the state went for a Democrat and the electors all are Democrats.
The last faithless elector in Washington was Mike Padden of Spokane Valley, now a state senator. He voted for Ronald Reagan in 1976, rather than Gerald Ford, who had carried the state that election. The Legislature quickly passed a law imposing a civil penalty of up to $1,000 to vote for someone other than the nominee. It has never been imposed. Wyman has been conferring with the Attorney General on a process for levying a penalty if there are faithless electors this time.
Hamilton Electors lost their attempt to persuade a federal judge to block such fines, but they vowed to appeal.
Wyman noted that the Electoral College has always been controversial in some circles, particularly in years like this one where the popular vote winner did not receive enough electoral votes to win the presidency. Washington actually has signed up as one of 11 states in the National Popular Vote compact aimed at following the popular vote. That bill passed in 2009. More states would need to join, with collectively having a majority of the electoral votes, to trigger the law.
The founders decided on the Electoral College process, basically winner-take-all by state, as a compromise between Congress voting on the president and vice president, and allowing a direct popular vote by qualified citizens.
Each state gets electors equal to the number of its U.S. senators and representatives. That’s currently 12 for Washington, the second largest bloc in the West. It takes 270 electoral votes to elect.
Washington electors will each fill out their ballots for president and vice president during the meeting. Six of each document are needed and will be sent to Congress, the state and national Archives and the presiding judge of federal district court. Vice President Biden, as president of the Senate, will preside over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6 and the new president is inaugurated on Jan. 20th.
The Washington Electoral College gathering will be televised by TVW live and via livestreaming.